Hamilton price fixer gets $1 million fine
Wednesday 9 August 2017
Online Realty Limited in Hamilton have been ordered to pay $1.05 million for their part in a long-running national price fixing case.
The Commerce Commission has been pursuing charges relating to three separate price fixing and anti-competitive agreements among 13 national real estate agencies, Hamilton real estate agencies and Manawatu real estate agencies for many years.
Proceedings on the charges, which relate to conduct in 2013 and 2014, have been wending their way through the courts since December 2015.
All of the national agencies, all of the Manawatu agencies and most of the Hamilton agencies have now had their day in court, admitted their part in the conduct, and been handed down penalties.
However, Justice Patricia Courtney’s judgment on Online Realty Limited (which was trading under the Ray White banner) has just been released.
Another two Hamilton agencies are still due to appear in court on the charges.
Online Realty admitted that it agreed with the other defendants to pass on the cost of listing on Trade Me to vendors in response to Trade Me changing its listing fee from a monthly subscription to a per listing fee.
The agency also admitted unlawful price fixing by agreeing with the others that vendors’ existing listings would be removed from Trade Me.
Justice Courtney said Online Realty was not a ringleader in the case.
“But the conduct has brought a significant and lasting change to the market, with the majority of Hamilton real estate agents continuing to pass on the cost.”
In response to this conduct, she handed down a penalty of $1.05 million to Online Realty.
The court imposed penalties now total more than $18.97 million.
The remaining defendants in the case - Lodge Real Estate and its director Jeremy O’Rourke and Monarch Real Estate (trading as Harcourts Hamilton) and its director Brian King - are due to go to trial in September.
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